Knowledge Hub

Risk People and culture Environmental, social, governance (ESG)

Gender equality? There's more work to be done!

On this year's International Women's Day, Caron Bradshaw OBE considers how far we've come and how far we still need to go to ensure gender equality in the workplace.


Today is International Women’s Day – a day when we can celebrate the achievements of women, identify the progress made in removing barriers based on gender, and encourage continued efforts to ensure that women and girls across the world have the opportunities to succeed without fear or impediment.

As I have progressed through my career I have, at every step, ensured that I shared the space with the women moving through their’s.

Whether formally through mentoring individuals, speaking at events for women at all stages of their careers and supporting female talent as an employer, or informally through the supportive peer groups I'm privileged to be part of, or simply as a mother of four – I have actively sought out opportunities to support talent and counter gender inequality.

The first time I had ever actually reflected on whether I had been in any way discriminated against, was when I was asked to speak for the Bayes Business School’s Masters in voluntary sector management. The question was simple enough: had I experienced any prejudice as a woman?

When I paused to think, I could see several points at which I had been on the receiving end of treatment because of my gender. It occurred to me that we get so desensitised to casual sexism that there is a danger that we overlook our own negative experiences.

How many of you reading this will feel a sense of familiarity when I recall that I have been told in meetings that I was getting ‘too emotional’ about a point I was passionate about? That I have attended a meeting with senior folk accompanied by a male colleague, only for the assumption to be made that I am administrative support rather than the expert?

The number of times I have been told to work on my gravitas, tone down my femininity or ‘lose my girlish charm’ are countless.

And on the darker side I’ve been subject to physical and verbal harassment during the course of my work including, on the more extreme end, harassment by a boss that led to me changing jobs.

A recent exchange on my local community’s Facebook page brought home to me how much work is still to be done. A local man posted a message saying he was looking for ‘a young lad’ to help him as a floor fitter. Offering training, transport and flexibility he obviously thought he was doing a great thing, and he was.

However, he also could not see what was wrong with stipulating both the age and gender of the potential employee. A few women pointed out, politely and with no nastiness, that this was no longer an acceptable way to seek staff. The subsequent pile on by men and women, criticising them for having the nerve to correct this man was illuminating.

Name calling, belittling, mockery and abuse. The post was subsequently removed and the man seeking a new member of staff reposted the position minus the age and gender stipulations. Though I expect he is still seeking ‘a young lad’.

In addition, it’s interesting to note that so far it has been a woman who stepped down from her position as a result of the Downing Street parties and the female lead of our capital’s police force departed in the light of bad management of unacceptable behaviour and violence against women and girls by male colleagues.

But this isn’t about just removing prejudice for women. We all benefit when society is inclusive. The toxic behaviours that have dominated big business and styles of leadership are toxic to all.

Men don’t benefit from family unfriendly, inflexible, command/control and 'work all hours' approaches any more than women. 'Real men don’t cry' attitudes lead to significant male suicide incidence and physical health issues unattended to.

There has been significant change at the heart of civil society over the last decade. Women lead the major infrastructure bodies and collaboration has never been greater! Causation or correlation? I’ll leave you to be the judge.

On this International Women’s Day – reach out to female talent and do what you can to help them climb the ladder. That means not just leaving that door in the glass ceiling open it means actively descending the rungs and helping the rising talent ascend themselves.


Women in the workplace. Did you know?

  • The gender pay gap between men and women in the UK is 12%.
  • Female representation on UK company boards is 34%.
  • Mothers of children under‑12 were over 3 percentage points more likely to have left employment than fathers of children under‑12 (between the first and the third quarter of 2020).
  • In the UK in the third quarter of 2021, the unemployment rate for Ethnic Minority women was:
    • Higher than the unemployment rate experienced by White women a decade ago.
    • 2.6 times higher than the unemployment rate currently experienced by White women.
  • The energy sector’s transition to net zero could leave women behind. Newly created green jobs will be concentrated in utilities, construction, and manufacturing. These sectors employ nearly 31% of the male workforce across the OECD, compared to only 11% of the female workforce.


This year's International Women's Day theme is #ChangingClimates. Did you also know:

  • 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty are women. In urban areas, 40% of the poorest households are headed by women.
  • Women predominate in the world's food production (50-80%), but they own less than 10% of the land.
  • 80% of the displaced by climate related disasters and changes around the world are women and girls.
  • Climate change may lead to more gender-based violence, an increase in child marriages, and worsening sexual and reproductive health.



Women In Work Index 2022, PWC

Women in the Shadow of Climate Change, Balgis Osman-Elasha, United Nations

« Back to the Knowledge Hub